Archive: 2022

1
Update from the Australia/New Zealand privacy conference and the changes to Australian privacy and cybersecurity laws
2
EU Digital Services Act: Fundamental Changes for Online Intermediaries?
3
UK Data Protection: Beware of the consequences of unsolicited marketing emails!
4
Privacy and cybersecurity laws expected to undergo a significant overhaul in the wake of Optus data breach
5
Argentina announces upgrades to data protection obligations
6
UK Government publishes new proposed data protection law
7
New World tech fall victim to Old World tricks
8
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus pledges sweeping data privacy reforms
9
The Importance of Managing DSARs
10
New concerns over China’s ability to access user data on WeChat

Update from the Australia/New Zealand privacy conference and the changes to Australian privacy and cybersecurity laws

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Stephanie Mayhew

We’ve just returned from the annual iapp Australia/New Zealand privacy conference held in Sydney this week, and it was a whirlwind. Even if you’re not one of around half of Australians affected by two of the biggest data breaches in our recent history, you’ll be aware a lot is changing – and a lot more is poised to change – in this space.

We’ll be blogging over the coming weeks about some of the key themes and changes your organisation will need to prepare for, including:

– new regulatory enforcement tools

– higher expectations of the way personal information is collected and secured, and when it needs to be destroyed

– potential removal of key exemptions such as the employee records exemption that your business may currently rely on,

– and of course the major penalty increases that seek to deter privacy breaches being viewed as ‘the cost of doing business’,

as Australia tightens the protections around the collection and use of Australians’ personal information.

Stay tuned!

EU Digital Services Act: Fundamental Changes for Online Intermediaries?

By Claude-Étienne Armingaud, Dr. Ulrike Elteste and Dr. Thomas Nietsch

The European Union has taken another step to set out its new legal framework for online intermediaries. Following the publication of the Digital Markets Act (Regulation (EU) 2022/1925) in the EU Official Journal on 12 October 2022, the Digital Services Act has now also been published in the EU Official Journal as Regulation (EU) 2022/2065.

While the Digital Markets Act focuses on the behavior of large “gatekeepers” towards other businesses, the Digital Services Act aims to fully harmonize the rules on the safety of online services and the dissemination of illegal content online. In particular, its Articles 4 to 10 replace the current provisions on the liability privilege enjoyed by online intermediaries in the eCommerce Directive 2000/31/EC. The privilege as such broadly remains intact, but is punctured in a number of ways. For example, the Digital Services Act encourages preemptive screening and provides that “trusted flaggers” must receive priority in the future. Providers of online platforms that allow consumers to enter into distance contracts with traders must obtain certain minimum information from the traders they admit to their platform. They may have to notify consumers if they become aware that products sold on their platform do not comply with legal requirements.

Again, “very large” online platforms and search engines receive the legislator’s (and the EU Commission’s) special attention. They must comply with additional transparency requirements and analyze and mitigate systemic risks.

But other intermediaries must also timely amend their terms of service, improve their complaint handling, and increase their transparency to avoid fines that can reach 6% of their global turnover. Specifically, online platforms must in the future provide clear information on “each specific advertisement presented to each individual recipient”, including “meaningful information directly and easily accessible from the advertisement about the main parameters used to determine the recipient to whom the advertisement is presented and, where applicable, about how to change those parameters”.

Most obligations bearing on companies subject to the Digital Services Act will start to apply on 17 February 2024. However, all but small online platforms and search engines will be required to publish information on the usage of their services (Statement) on their website, with an initial Statement to be published by 17 February 2023 at the latest. Intermediaries designated as “very large online platforms” or “very large online search engines” by the EU Commission will need to comply with most of their new obligations from four months after being notified of their “very large” status.

UK Data Protection: Beware of the consequences of unsolicited marketing emails!

By Claude-Étienne Armingaud and Keisha Phippen

Sending unsolicited marketing emails could prove costly to UK organisations, as bike and car accessory retailer Halfords have recently discovered.

Last month, Halfords were handed a fine of £30,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sending around half a million unsolicited marketing email messages to customers who had not previously opted-in to marketing (see here).

The fine was issued under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which gives people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications and restricts how unsolicited direct marketing is carried out.

An investigation carried out by the ICO found that the retailer broke the laws governing electronic communications by sending out emails relating to a government voucher scheme that gave people £50 off the cost of repairing a bike at any participating store or mechanic in England. The email not only pointed customers to the government website, it also invited them to book a bike assessment and to redeem their voucher at their chosen Halfords store. The ICO concluded that the insinuation of Halfords having a direct connection with the government scheme encouraged its customers to redeem the voucher in its stores and that Halfords was therefore advertising its own services.

PECR prevents organisations from sending emails or messages to people unless they have consented to it or they are an existing customer who has bought similar products or services in the past (known as the “soft opt-in” rule).

Halfords argued that the email constituted a service message and should not be categorised as direct marketing, but the ICO maintained that the email did constitute direct marketing because it satisfied the definition of such under Paragraph 35 of the ICO’s Direct Marketing Guidance (see here).  In addition, the ICO concluded that the soft opt-in rule could not apply because the targeted customers had already opted out. 

Andy Curry, Head of Investigations at the ICO said: “This [decision] sends a message to similar organisations to review their electronic marketing operations, and that we will take necessary action if they break the law.”

Privacy and cybersecurity laws expected to undergo a significant overhaul in the wake of Optus data breach

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Stephanie Mayhew

Over the past two years, the Privacy Act has been the subject of long-awaited reform in Australia however, it seems the Optus data breach may have given it some much needed momentum.

The Optus attack is understood to have affected the details of 11.2m Optus customers, and of that 2.8m individuals have had their driver’s licence and/or passport numbers compromised. The hacker claims to have extracted the data from an API – software that allows two different systems to talk to each other. Therefore, if the claim is true the hacker didn’t need to provide authentication (e.g. a username and password) to retrieve the data.

In the wake of the attack, the Government has shared its plans to pursue substantial reforms that will include increased penalties under the Privacy Act (currently capped at $2.22m per offence) as well as changes to data breach notification laws to allow companies to rapidly inform financial institutions of affected individuals in an effort to minimise fraud.

The data breach also highlights the risks involved in collecting large amounts of personal information and storing this for excessive time periods. While the Privacy Act promotes the collection of a minimum amount of personal information, i.e. only that information that is necessary for a particular purpose and which the entity intends to use or disclose – individuals generally have limited control over how long their information is retained for.

During the initial stages of the Privacy Act review, the Attorney General’s Department sought submissions from entities on their views as to whether individuals should be given the right to have their personal information erased. Optus in submissions to the review argued against such a change stating that the right to erase personal data would involve significant technical hurdles and compliance costs that would outweigh the benefits. Of course this incident has happened just as stores are gearing up for Halloween – a fitting time for those public submissions to come back to haunt them.

Argentina announces upgrades to data protection obligations

By Cameron Abbott, Stephanie Mayhew and Dadar Ahmadi-Pirshahid

Argentina’s Data Protection Authority, the Agency for Access to Public Information (the Agency), has published a draft bill that proposes to bring Argentina’s 22 year old data protection law more in line with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Amongst other things, the bill modernises Argentina’s data protection law to deal with more recent issues including cloud computing, biometric and genetic data. It provides greater scope for international transfers of information by allowing transfers under the sanction of adequate data protection guarantees in the absence of a decision by the Agency that the importing country has adequate data protection. It additionally requires Data Controllers to document and notify the Agency of data breaches within 48 hours of becoming aware of a breach.

The draft bill is open for public comment until 30 September 2022. Any entity wishing to submit commentary is encouraged to reach out to K&L Gates to help facilitate the submission process.

UK Government publishes new proposed data protection law

By Claude-Étienne Armingaud, Nóirín McFadden and Keisha Phippen

The UK Government has finally published its highly anticipated Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (the Bill), marking the first significant post-Brexit change to the UK’s data protection regime. Following Brexit, the UK continued following the EU General Data Protection Regulation, incorporated into UK law as the UK GDPR, and the UK implementation of the EU ePrivacy Directive, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR), also remained in force.

The Bill is only at the start of the legislative process, and it remains to be seen how it will develop if it is amended during its passage through Parliament, but early indications are that it represents more of an evolution than a revolution in the UK regime. That will come as a relief to businesses that transfer personal data from the EU to the UK, because it reduces the risk that the EU might rescind the UK’s adequacy status.

For a start, the Bill actually preserves the UK GDPR, its enabling legislation the Data Protection Act 2018, and the PECR, because it is drafted as an amending act rather than a completely new legislative instrument. This does not contribute to user-friendliness, as interpreting UK data protection requirements will require a great deal of cross-referencing across texts.

The more eye-catching proposed changes in the Bill include:

  • The inclusion of a list of “legitimate interests” that will automatically qualify as being covered by the lawful basis in UK GDPR Article 6(e).
  • Some limitations on data subject access requests, such as the possibility of refusing “vexatious or excessive” requests.
  • More exemptions from the requirement to obtain consent to cookies.
  • Much higher fees for breach of PECR.

The Bill will now progress through various Parliamentary stages over the coming months in order to become law.

New World tech fall victim to Old World tricks

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Dadar Ahmadi-Pirshahid

OpenSea have reported a breach whereby email addresses registered with the site have been shared with an unauthorised third party.

For landlubbers, OpenSea is the world’s largest marketplace for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The Head of Security at OpenSea identified an employee of OpenSea’s third party email delivery vendor as the source of the breach. The employee reportedly misused their access privileges to download and share the list of the site’s registered email addresses with an external party.

People who have shared an email address with OpenSea, such as subscribers to the site’s newsletter, are warned to remain vigilant about attempts by malicious parties to impersonate communications from OpenSea.

OpenSea has dealt with several security incidents this year. Only a month ago, a former OpenSea product manager was arrested and is reportedly the first person to have been charged in connection with a digital asset insider trading scheme. The product manager’s responsibilities included deciding which NFTs would be featured on the site’s homepage, which he allegedly used for his own financial gain. When OpenSea had discovered his conduct in September 2021, OpenSea requested and accepted the product manager’s resignation. Immediately afterwards, OpenSea commissioned a third party review of the incident and implemented the review’s recommendations to strengthen their existing policies.

In May this year, OpenSea’s Discord server was hacked. Just a few months earlier, 254 NFTs valued at around $1.7million USD were stolen through what appear to have been phishing attacks. OpenSea has reportedly reimbursed the victims.

These incidences highlight the status of NFT marketplaces as high value targets for malicious actors and reveals that many of the security vulnerabilities faced in the ‘old’ world of cyber technology remain a threat in the new world of blockchain and NFTs.

Once again, these incidents serve as a reminder for organisations to develop effective cyber security risk management, which requires an approach that encompasses all security vulnerabilities and that includes mechanisms governing employee access and use of sensitive information.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus pledges sweeping data privacy reforms

By Cameron Abbott, Rob Pulham and Hugo Chow

Newly sworn-in Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has announced that there is a range of “sweeping reforms” that are needed to be made to Australia’s privacy laws, and that he is committed to making these changes during the government’s first term in parliament.

Mr Dreyfus’ department is currently reviewing the feedback it has received from its discussion paper around the current review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act). Mr Dreyfus said that “Everyone agrees that the Commonwealth Privacy Act is out of date and in need of reform for the digital age”, and that he is hoping to bring a final report of reform proposals into the public domain in the coming months.

Privacy practitioners have for years been anticipating some level of reform as the winds of change have been blowing, but it has not been easy to predict what may change, or when. Proposed changes include strengthening individuals’ privacy rights, including creating a direct cause of action or statutory right for breaches of privacy laws; introducing specific codes for certain industries; and increasing maximum penalties which are significantly out of step with international jurisdictions and with other key Australian business laws.

However such changes are not likely to be welcomed by all, even if “everyone agrees” the Privacy Act is out of date and in need of reform, with business groups opposed to areas of proposed reform such as allowing individuals to bring claims directly against companies.

It is a fascinating precursor to what may become hotly contested reforms with significant impact on how businesses engage with their customers. It may be hard to tell but privacy nerds are on the edge of our seats as the reforms, much talked about, move a step closer to taking shape. There’s never been a better time to start paying attention.

The Importance of Managing DSARs

By Claude-Étienne Armingaud and Inès Demmou

With its December 2021 fine imposed on French telephone operator Free Mobile, the French data protection authority (CNIL) reiterated the importance of responding to data subject access requests (DSARs) within the relevant timeline (usually 30 days), with all the relevant and required information (Article 13 and 14 GDPR) and ensuring the security of users’ personal data (Article 32 GDPR). 

Another sanction by the Dutch Supervisory Authority relating to the principle of data minimization confirmed that such DSARs could not be conditioned by overly complex mechanisms, such as a requirement to upload a full copy of an identity document.

These sanctions demonstrate that data subjects have acquired the awareness necessary to exercise their rights, and that data controllers must implement effective channels and internal processes to handle DSARs properly, effectively, in a timely manner, and in a way that would not, in turn, generate its own set of breaches of the GDPR. 

To find out more, see our full alert here.

New concerns over China’s ability to access user data on WeChat

By Cameron Abbott and Hugo Chow

A recent report by cybersecurity firm, Internet 2.0, has raised concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to access the data of millions of users around the world of social media and payment application, WeChat.

WeChat is significant as it is the application that nearly all citizens in China use on a daily basis for communication, payments for services and as a way for citizens to connect through social media. Although the majority of WeChat’s more than 1 billion users are located in China, there are approximately 600,000 users in Australia, 1.3 million users in the UK, and 1.5 million users in the United States.

One of the concerns the report outlines is that although WeChat states that its servers are kept outside mainland China, all user data that WeChat logs and posts to its logging server goes directly to Hong Kong. And the report argues that under Hong Kong’s new National Security Legislation, there is little difference between Hong Kong resident servers and servers in mainland China.

As a result, due to China’s National Intelligence Law which requires organisations and citizens to “support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work”, there are concerns that the WeChat logging data that goes to servers in Hong Kong may be accessed by the Chinese Government upon request. The report states that the data that goes to Hong Kong is log data, which includes the user’s mobile network, device information, GPS information, phone ID, the version of the operating system of the device, but does not include information such as content of a conversation.

Another concern the report outlines is that although there was no evidence that chats were stored outside the user’s device, the report found that WeChat had the potential to access all the data in a user’s clipboard. This means that there is the potential for WeChat to access the data that is copied and pasted by users on WeChat, which is a risk to people using password managers that rely on the clipboard feature to copy and paste their passwords.

We expect to hear more about these sorts of concerns from a range of jurisdictions.

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